JA quotes and intro

"I should infinitely prefer a book." -- Chapter 39, Pride and Prejudice
"...I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my own credit..." -- Chapter 8, Pride and Prejudice
"I shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon as may be." -- Chapter 20, Pride and Prejudice

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

First Night at Netherfield


(2007)
Pride and Prejudice
"Halloween" / "Anything but Pride and Prejudice" (Oops!)
Elizabeth Bennet is at a loss to explain some of the odd goings-on during Jane's convalescence at Netherfield.


Jane's skin grew clammy as the full moon, which had been darkened by a cloud, shone again in full force through the window. Elizabeth shuddered and pulled her hand back from her sister's brow. Perhaps she had not been needed after all. Jane appeared to be recovering from her fever much sooner than expected. Elizabeth only hoped the chills would not be of long duration. Jane was wretched when ill, always afraid of putting anyone to any trouble for her sake.

Elizabeth covered her sister well with the blankets and slipped out of the room. She grabbed a shawl and headed for the stairs, amusing herself by imagining as she passed the chambers of Miss Bingley and the Hursts that she stood before the threshold of some newly discovered secret door or rarely used passage leading to a dank cellar.

She reached the front door and found it not only unlocked but ajar. Hesitating but a moment, she stepped outside and walked between the towering trees.

A thick cloud passed before the moon, plunging the sky into utter darkness. A scream in the distance, quickly followed by another of the hair-raising variety, and the eerie howls, which seemed to originate much closer to the house, barely made her flinch. Not so long ago, the spine-chilling sounds would have drawn an answering scream from her, but she had become inured to such things in the last month or so.

Having congratulated herself on her composure, she was disconcerted to feel a cold hand reaching out to her from behind. She gasped, then clutched her collar and turned.

Her imagination toyed with her, preparing her for a horrid sight: a ghoul, its fangs twisted and dripping with blood; ghosts dancing in writhing mist; zombies, those mysterious beings she had heard her father describe as resembling his cousin Collins. Instead, she saw another kind of monster, exactly the sort to raise her hackles: a tall, handsome, arrogant one, with nothing otherworldly about him at all beyond the ephemeral silver sparkle in his eyes, which she attributed to the uneven moonlight.

"I had expected to be accosted by a fearsome warlock, or a vampire at the very least."

"I am sorry to have disappointed you. I know of no warlocks related to the Darcys. Vampires are a different matter, however. They say there was just such a blood-sucking fiend somewhere deep in my ancestry. His name was George Wickham, and he wore a scarlet cloak. I know little else about him, though Mrs. Reynolds has claimed to see him riding the grounds of Pemberley after sunset, or hear him bumping into walls at night. All that remains in evidence of a connection between him and me is our mutual love of the dark."

A low bark interrupted their conversation. Elizabeth smiled, recalling when she last had heard the sound. She looked about her, trying to make out the familiar form.

A shadowy movement caught her eye. "There you are!" A large, rambunctious ball of fur hurtled towards her, stopping short of colliding with her petite frame. "Now, now." She could feel Darcy preparing to strike, while all she could do was laugh the antics of her 'pet'. "Jane is ill, poor thing, or she would have been the one to greet you." His whimpers drew forth her pity and affection.

She turned to look at her tall companion, who, as she had suspected, appeared poised to do the creature injury if necessary. "Calm yourself, sir. He is harmless. There is no need for violence. Jane and I know him, Jane better than I. He visited us at the last full moon."

"He is as large as a man."

"Mama would call him a werewolf if she could see him now. She has always had a fancy for the...extraordinary."

"In this I would not be inclined to disagree with her."

Elizabeth directed a questioning glance at him.

During her moment of distraction, the wolf ran through the door and bounded up the stairs with surprising silence. By the time Elizabeth caught up with him, the creature had found Jane's room and made himself comfortable beside her on the bed.

"Jane will not be cold tonight."

"No," came the whisper in her ear. "She looks cosy enough."

"Indeed."

"Let me walk you to your room. Unless you would like to go outside again?"

"No." She shivered, more at the warmth radiating from his hand on her waist than from the cool air. "It is too chilly for that."

"Come." He led her down the hall. She had a vague sense of unease, but his voice mesmerised her, and she heeded it. "Come. You must get to bed." As she preceded him into the darkened chamber, she felt a soft kiss upon her shoulder, then a bite that rendered her senseless.

~*~


A few hours later, Elizabeth awoke, still dressed as she had been when going out. Her nightclothes lay untouched on the bed. She hesitated to call the maid due to the lateness of the hour, and so worked her way out of her clothes by herself.

Her decision proved a wise one. She could not explain to herself, or hope to conceal from a maid, the heart-shaped red mark on her shoulder. Nor could she determine why each time she touched it, it was as if she could feel Mr. Darcy's lips upon her skin.

She would have to dress on her own in the morning. Until she had solved this mystery, she wished to draw as little attention to herself as possible.

A commotion in the hall interrupted her thoughts. Mr. Darcy peeked out from his room and enquired what the matter was. Mr. Hurst's face flickered into view; then his candle blew out. Fortunately his wife, who appeared by his side, carried a lit one.

Miss Bingley, the source of the uproar, looked for all the world like a wicked witch in a scary bedtime story, face contorted and voice screeching. "You cannot marry that...that woman! How dare she come here and trap you in your own house!"

"She did not trap me. Miss Bennet never would behave in an unseemly fashion. If anyone is to blame, it is I."

Elizabeth was unsure what shocked her more: the sight of Mr. Bingley arguing with his sister - with anyone, really - or the subject of their disagreement. From the shouts and accusations, it appeared Mr. Bingley had been found in her sister's room.

She wondered if the wolf's howling had drawn Mr. Bingley from his own room to her sister's. Whatever the case, Jane could not be at fault. She had been fast asleep. "My sister would never breach propriety, certainly not in that way! Besides, Jane is ill! It is impossible she has done anything wrong."

"She looked well to my eyes," shrieked the witch.

Indeed, Jane, who appeared at that very moment, did look remarkably improved. "What is the matter?"

"Poor Jane! Have we awakened you?"

She nodded, yawning. "I heard voices. What has happened?"

"Perhaps you can tell us," Miss Bingley smirked.

“My fever is gone, but I am tired.”

"That is no surprise, considering what you have been up to with my brother."

"Miss Bingley, whatever do you mean?"

"I caught Charles-"

"Enough, Caroline." Bingley's voice came out like a growl, and Miss Bingley was subdued immediately. He turned to Elizabeth and Jane. "I apologize, ladies. Miss Bennet, do not let us disturb you further. Shall I send a tray up? Are you hungry?"

The glint in Mr. Bingley's eyes seemed familiar to Elizabeth. All of a sudden she was reminded of moonlight and fur. And the scent... She shook her head to clear it.

Jane thanked Mr. Bingley, expressed her disinclination to trouble the servants with breakfast mere hours away, and went back to bed. Bingley and Mrs. Hurst dragged Miss Bingley away to her room. Mr. Hurst looked on for a moment, then retired.

Elizabeth turned back to her own room. When she entered it, she was met with the sight of Mr. Darcy sitting on the bed, tapping the bedpost with his long, elegant fingers.

"What did you do to me?" she demanded at a whisper.

"When you swooned, I placed you on the bed and immediately left the room. I did not take advantage of you, if that is what concerns you. A tendency to that particular evil is no part of my disposition, I assure you."

"What have you done to my shoulder?"

He only smiled.

"Why did you kiss me?"

"Because I admire you. Because you have bewitched me."

"I thought you hated me."

"No." He reached for her hand and drew her nearer. "How can I not admire what is before me now? But this is not the time to speak of these things. You should sleep." He stood, kissed her other shoulder, and soon Elizabeth was asleep upon her pillow without memory of how she had come to be there.

~*~


By the time Elizabeth awoke again, sunlight streamed through the windows. She peeled her gown back and looked at her shoulders - yes, there was a second mark, but thankfully both marks had faded to the point where they were barely perceptible. She grabbed her dressing gown and took a quick peek at Jane before returning to ring for a maid. Hopefully, she would have time for a walk before breakfast.

Elizabeth returned to the house amidst the sounds of activity and conversation. Either breakfast had been served earlier than she had anticipated, or she had walked too far. She hurried upstairs to change her shoes and remove the dust from her skirt.

When she returned downstairs, a servant whom she had never seen before handed her a letter. She thanked him and opened it. She could make no sense of the message or of the signature. In fact, she could make out no more than a few odd, unconnected words: spider web, grizzled, stagnant, oozing, insidious; words that conjured up images from a bad dream. The final sentence said something about not having read the directions carefully until after the writer had begun the story and had used characters from the wrong novel. Elizabeth thought on the curious missive for a minute or two. Then she shrugged, folded it, and handed it back to the servant, saying there must have been some mistake. It could not have been meant for her, or for any of the Bennet girls, for that matter.

Entering the dining room, she was surprised to see Jane looking as well as she had two days before at Longbourn. Mr. Bingley sat by her; his puppy-like eagerness to ascertain her welfare, her opinion of the meal - her opinion of anything and everything - was almost comical. Jane bore it all with equanimity and, at times, even a small smile.

Elizabeth approached an empty chair and found it suddenly pulled out for her. As Mr. Darcy helped her to her seat, she felt his surreptitious brushing of her shoulders. The feeling was intense and pleasurable. She hoped she had not appeared about to swoon; she could see Miss Bingley eyeing her with suspicion, thought that might have been due merely to Mr. Darcy's presence beside her.

Mr. Darcy sat down again, across from Miss Bingley and next to herself. He made little conversation but he smiled often, and whenever he spoke to her, she fancied she could see the slightest hint of silver in his eyes.

~The End~

4 comments:

  1. I love it...Cute and sexy.

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  2. Ever since I first read this story a few years ago, I have wished for more of it. It's always been a disappointment to me that essentially all the halloween-themed fan-fics for P&P are just a short story, ficlet, or just a scene. It's like being given a tiny taste of something luscious then being told that it was a recipe never written down, so it cannot be repeated or expanded upon. Of all the halloween-themed fics I've read in my Pride & Prejudice obsession, this is definitely one of my very favorites. But like one or two of the others I'm particularly fond of, I desperately wish that I could read the rest of the story. Very well done.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! I hadn't considered a longer version. I like short stories, both reading and writing them; however, sometimes I do find myself wishing for, or working on, a continuation. I'll have to give some thought to what the rest of the story is here, though, because I have no idea. :)

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